Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill into law on Thursday that would end religious exemptions for immunizations in response to the measles outbreak in New York, according to the New York Times.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the highly contagious measles virus — which was declared eliminated in 2000 after widespread vaccination — can lead to pneumonia and encephalitis. The current outbreak “has spread to 28 states, with more than 1,000 cases in total,” alarming state and national health officials and medical advocates alike.
Opponents to the bill argued that it infringed on their constitutional rights to freely practice religion, others for their rights as parents. Assemblyman Michael Montesano, a Long Island Republican said, “it’s still the individual parent, who is raising this child, that has the fundamental right to decide what happens with their child in all facets of their life.”
The bill passed in the state Assembly at 77 to 53, narrowly obtaining the 76-vote threshold.
Cuomo said in a statement, “while I understand and respect freedom of religion, our first job is to protect the public health” and added that vaccines “are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe.”
New York now joins California, Arizona, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Maine in ending religious exemptions for immunizations.